Singapore Spirit-A A +A
By Betsy Gazo
Saturday, September 28, 2013
SINGAPORE attracts good spirits as I have found out just going around the city center. Positive energy reverberates in the clean, orderly, and tidy surroundings and system. I am struck by the fact that prosperity is coupled with discipline and a sense of belongingness regardless of whatever ethnic group one is from. There is also a certain je ne sais quoi that has set in after decades of rehabilitation under the Lee Kuan Yew regime; that something must be the knowledge that living in Singapura is a privilege but at the same time that knowledge is accepted with nonchalance. Cleanliness, tidiness, and discipline are part of the way of life there that also attracts non-natives to its shores.
When people are assured of their safety in a certain place, they are more likely to visit. Scores of tourists can be seen walking down the safe streets. There is none of the wary, nervous glance that says someone has been forewarned of a dangerous place. Now and then, though, one can read signs reminding pedestrians and commuters to be circumspect and be watchful of dubious characters. No country is perfect but, at least, there, criminals have more chances of being punished. At the hostel where I stayed, many guests traveled alone unafraid.
The orderly lay-out of streets is matched by equally orderly maps that guide a visitor who prefer to get around on his own. MRT routes are marked clearly enough although I found walking up and down the subway stairs too tiring. Yet, it’s the Singaporean Spirit that made it easy for me to ask how to get from here to there including one cute guy who offered a “May I help you?” It’s the Singaporean Spirit that makes a commuter give up a seat to the elderly without thinking twice. In fact, too eagerly that I probably embarrassed a middle-aged gentleman who offered his seat to my mother but I had to decline for we were only one stop away from an MRT station. It was also The Spirit that prodded a concerned clerk at the Esplanade-Theatres on the Bay to find a way to get me and my mother tickets to a sold-out concert with her co-workers going out of their way to make sure I was comfortable at the lobby when there was only a ticket left for my mother.
Singapore is a country going forward like a university kid making a success of himself in the world but at the same time looking forward to going home to mama. Heritage buildings are proof of the country’s concern for its past. Many of these edifices have retained their Old World charm and upgraded to accommodate the changing times. Old bridges are retained and converted into walkways instead of being demolished and sold off by the kilogram to a junk dealer. Bugis, an old red-light district, was cleaned of its colorful past and is now a bustling shopping district. (But here’s a little dirty secret – Geylang has taken its place.) Women can shop to their hearts’ desire at Orchard or practically anywhere yet many have not forgotten their ethnic origins and wear colorful saris with garlands of flowers in their hair or don Muslim attires just about everywhere.
I can only gape at the vividly hued gorgeous orchids at a TWG teashop at ION Mall on Orchard for we have none back home in public places. ‘Tis a pity since our Philippine orchids are the queens in the plant kingdom. Well, how can we when no sooner has a flower budded when it is nipped off! Calamansi plants bear fruit by the roadside and no one is tempted to pick them. Here? Huh! It is also at Orchard that I stared at our female kababayans who crowded the benches and steps one Sunday either enjoying a picnic, shopping for the latest or simply deep in thought probably thinking of their folks back home. I can feel their nostalgia for the Philippines but it’s the Singapore Spirit that keeps them there. And I don’t blame them the very least.
Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on September 28, 2013.